Aussies triumph in T20I series opener


Australia clinched first blood in their two-match Twenty20 international series against South Africa with a five-wicket win at Newlands in Cape Town on Thursday.

Shane Watson capitalised on an early dropped catch to play the matchwinning innings for Australia as they won the first Twenty20 international against South Africa by five wickets here on Thursday night.

Watson was put down by Graeme Smith at slip when a clean catch would have left Australia three for two in pursuit of 147 for victory, and went on to stroke a powerful 52 that set up the game for the tourists.

David Warner, seen as they key man to the Aussie chase with two unbeaten centuries in his last two Twenty20 innings, was brilliantly run out by Morne Morkel in the opening over to give South Africa hope that they might defend a below-par score of 146 for seven.

However it was Watson who took the game by the horns after gaining a life, driving his next delivery for four and then pulling Lonwabo Tsotsobe for six in the following over.

He went to his fifty in just 34 balls as he shared a crucial stand of 82 with Shaun Marsh, who provided able support at the other end with a 19-ball 25.

The pace of the partnership meant that even when Watson and Marsh fell in consecutive overs as Morne Morkel and Johan Botha pulled South Africa back into the game, the batsmen who followed had little scoring pressure and were able to see out the more threatening bowlers.

At the same time, David Hussey (25) and Cameron White (28) were ruthless with anything that was either too short or too full, and Rusty Theron took plenty of abuse as his first three overs went for 36 runs.

Although the Proteas never gave up, and dismissed both Hussey and White to take the game to the last over, just six runs were required and Steve Smith finished the job with three balls remaining.

South Africa's total had been mostly reliant on a smoothe half-century from JP Duminy as his 67 from 53 balls dug the Proteas out of a mini-hole at 58 for two halfway through their innings and steered them to a defendable score on a Newlands pitch that was by no means a batting paradise.

The left-hander, batting on his home ground, shared in partnerships of 58 with Colin Ingram (33) and 65 with David Miller (20) after Test skipper Smith and new captain Hashim Amla endured a poor start to the match.

After an over in which he looked every bit the batsman who hadn't played an international knock for more than six months, Smith's stumps were splattered by an inside edge off Doug Bollinger to depart for a depressing duck.

Amla, in contrast, made a silky start to his innings but was run out attempting a third after turning slowly for the final run and also failing to put in a dive.

That left the Proteas on 10 for two, but Duminy and Ingram steadied the ship with a slow few overs before upping the tempo at the halfway mark as Duminy launched a couple of sixes over long-on, then slapped a couple more over midwicket as the bowlers dropped short.

Ingram was content to take a supporting role for the most part, but did notch up four boundaries before finding a man on the fence to end the partnership.

However Miller recognised that Duminy was the man in form and helped himself to singles when he arrived at the crease, as Duminy scored more than two-thirds of the runs in their brisk stand.

Duminy took 19 in the 18th over off James Pattinson, but the fun ended when Patrick Cummins' cleverly-disguised slower ball claimed three scalps in the 19th as Duminy, Miller and Johan Botha all fell to top edges.

That stopped the Proteas from galloping past the 150-mark, and allowed a steady tempo to the chase once Watson had done the bulk of the work up front.

<i>Tristan Holme at Newlands</i>